OTTAWA – Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP for Winnipeg Centre will be tabling a private members’ bill on Monday that, if passed, will establish June 2 as “Indian Residential School Reconciliation and Memorial Day.” June 2 is the anniversary of the release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“It’s important for every Canadian today, and every Canadian in the future to recognize that this is part of our history and our legacy as a country,” said Ouellette. “By recognizing and marking this history every year, we can move forward with reconciliation and healing.”
The bill was based on the work of Maeengan Linklater, a community volunteer from Winnipeg whose parents were Residential School survivors. Ouellette’s father and grandparents also attended Residential Schools.
Last year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Justice Murray Sinclair, released a report into Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, which operated from 1870 to 1996, and saw 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit pass through their doors. Parents had no choice but to send their children to the schools, emptying Indigenous communities of their children.
Over 6,000 children never went home again – they died, many of TB, which the children contracted at school. The death rate was high enough that schools were designed with cemeteries. An official report written as early as 1907 – and suppressed – referred to the schools as a “national crime.” The last school closed only in 1996.
Many students suffered abuse at the schools, and for many the essential bonds of family were broken, creating intergenerational traumas that last to this day.
“I ask the Parliament of Canada and all Canadians – to acknowledge Canada’s colonial historical legacy of the Indian Residential School system for what it is – an act of genocide under the UN convention 1949,” said Linklater. “And, I ask the Parliament of Canada – to forge a new path that acknowledges the past, but more importantly – focuses on the future and restores the faith and trust of Indigenous peoples.”
Ouellette said the purpose of the day is to expand understanding and learning about residential schools with the purpose of bridging the divide between Indigenous people and other Canadians.
“We are still living with a double legacy of Residential Schools,” said Ouellette. “One is intergenerational trauma, but the other is that it is still the default policy of governments and Child and Family Service Agencies to take children away from Indigenous families instead of finding ways to keep them together.”
The top five recommendations of the TRC were to address the issue of Indigenous children in care.